New Mexico - Biscochitos

Biscochitos are anise and cinnamon flavored shortbread cookies and are the state cookie of New Mexico!  As a matter of fact, New Mexico was the first state to adopt an official "state cookie" back in 1989!  

This cookie is a Christmas tradition in New Mexico but also shows up at other special occasions like weddings, baptisms and quinceneras.  

Biscochitos led me to purchase two ingredients that I have never purchased before... see if you can guess which two?!

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3 teaspoons anise seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound lard, softened
1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 Tablespoons rum, bourbon or sweet white wine

for the topping:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 


  • sift together the flour, baking powder, anise and salt
  • beat the lard in an electric mixer, gradually adding the sugar.  cream until extremely fluffy and light, about 8 minutes
  • add the egg, followed by the bourbon, and continue beating
  • mix in the dry ingredients, adding about one-third of the mixture at a time.  stop the mixer as you make each addition, and beat no longer than necessary to incorporate the dry ingredients.  a stiff pie-crust type of dough is what you are seeking
  • chill the dough for about 15 minutes for easy handling
  • use a cookie press to form the biscochitos or roll the dough to 1/4 inch thickness and cut out with small cookie cutter
  • place cookies on ungreased cookie sheets
  • preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 10 - 12 minutes until just set and pale golden.
  • while the cookies bake, stir together the topping ingredients
  • when the cookies come out of the oven, cool for just a minute or two on the baking sheets, then gently dunk the top of each in the cinnamon-sugar topping
  • transfer to absorbent paper to finish cooling
  • Biscochitos, tightly covered, will keep for at least a week.  
Note:  for authentic Biscochitos, you must use Lard


New Jersey - Cannoli

While I currently live in New Jersey, I'm not from New Jersey so I thought it would be fun to enlist the help of NJ natives in choosing their state sweet.  A great blog in Hoboken,, agreed to post a survey to determine what sweet I should make.  

The choices were:
Crumb Cake / Crumb Buns

Over 600 people voted and 257 chose Cannoli as their pick for NJ's state sweet!  I have to admit, I was hoping Crumb Cake / Crumb Buns would win because it is a mild obsession of mine but, the people have spoken and Cannoli it is!  

Cannoli are a Sicilian dessert consisting of fried pastry tubes filled with a sweet, creamy filling made primarily of ricotta cheese and sugar.  Mix-ins like chocolate chunks or candied orange peel are common and Cannoli are usually kissed with a dusting of powdered sugar before serving.  

In pastry school we made cannoli dough, shaped the shells and fried them before filling them - a lot of work but much easier in a professional kitchen.  This time around, I cheated and outsourced the shells...  luckily, in NJ you can buy empty cannoli shells at the grocery store bakery which made this a much easier recipe to complete in my home kitchen! 

Now that we have the shells, time to make the filling! 


2 lbs Ricotta cheese (Impastata if you can find it) 
8 ounces confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 ounces semisweet chocolate 
chopped pistachios for garnish
Cannoli shells 
* this amount of filling should fill about 48 mini cannoli shells 


  • whip ricotta and confectioners sugar until light and fluffy
  • mix in vanilla extract and cinnamon
  • stir in chocolate and any other desired mix in's by hand
  • no more than one or two hours before serving, fill the shells using pastry bag
  • sprinkle the ends with chopped pistachios and dust with confectioners sugar 

I had a great time making this local favorite and appreciate everyone's participation!  Special thanks to Perry at Hoboken 411!  


New Hampshire - Delicious Maple Bars

I had no idea that New Hampshire is such a large maple producer!  10 out of the 10 counties that comprise the small state have sugar houses and produce maple syrup and maple sugar during the 6 week sugaring season mid February - mid April.  

Maple Weekend 2012 is coming up on March 24 - 25th and sugaring houses statewide will open their doors to the public - just in case you are in the area.  

I found a great maple recipe courtesy of the New Hampshire Maple Producers Association for "Delicious Maple Bars" and wanted to use pure New Hampshire maple products for the recipe.  

I ordered maple sugar and maple syrup from Parker's Maple Barn in Mason, NH and was so excited when they arrived! 

Here's what you need for Delicious Maple Bars...

1/2 cup pure New Hampshire maple sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup shortening 
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup pure New Hampshire maple syrup
1 cup chopped nuts or coconut
1 egg
1 cup rolled oats 
1 teaspoon vanilla 

  • mix all ingredients together thoroughly
  • spread in a greased 8 inch square pan
  • bake 30 - 35 minutes at 350 degrees
  • cut into squares while warm 

I made my Delicious Maple Bars with coconut.  I thought it was a good compliment to the warm maple flavor and soft, chewy texture of this bar.   These little guys certainly live up to their name! 


Nevada - Basque Cake with Cherry Preserves

Nevada has one of the largest Basque populations in the United States and their culinary culture is prevalent particularly in Reno and northern Nevada.  

According to Nevada Magazine "Basque settlers made their way to Nevada during the mining booms of the mid to late 1800s and into the 1900s. While mining was the catalyst, most Basques discovered they could make better money providing meat and wool to miners, and Nevada’s open spaces proved the perfect fit for their herds."

Today there are many Basque family style restaurants in Nevada and Basque Cake is a typical sweet!   

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups cake flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon pure almond extract
1/3 cup sour cherry preserves
1/4 cup sliced almonds, optional
Confectioners' sugar for dusting 

recipe - courtesy of Gale Gand

  • Place an oven rack in the middle of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Butter a 10-inch cake pan or spring-form pan.  In a mixer with a whip attachment, beat the butter until creamy.  Gradually beat in the sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in the vanilla extract.
  • Sift the cake flour, salt and baking powder together and use a rubber spatula to fold the dry ingredients into the butter mixture until a soft dough forms and no white streaks of flour remain.  Spread half of the batter evenly in the bottom of the prepared pan.  Stir the almond extract into the cherry preserves.  Spoon the cherry preserves over the batter, spreading it within 2 inches of the border.
  • Drop the remaining batter by large spoonfuls or pipe it with a plain tip over the preserves.  Spread the batter carefully over the jam to the edge of the pan.  Sprinkle with sliced almonds, if using. 
  • Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a bamboo skewer inserted into the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it.  Let cool in the pan on a wire rack.  Unmold the cake and dust with confectioners' sugar. 

Yum!  This is a really fantastic cake that is simple but impressive!  


Nebraska - Sweet Corn Ice Cream

Nebraska is the Cornhusker State, so I just had to make a corn inspired dessert.  While Nebraska doesn't have an official state dessert, they have designated Kool-Aid as the official state soft drink since it was invented in Hastings, Nebraska in 1927 - just a fun fact for trivia night.

OK, back to corn and finding a suitable recipe for Nebraska's state sweet.  

Of course there are corn muffins, corn fritters and corn cakes - but to me, none of those really screams dessert.  But, I scream, you scream, we all scream for CORN ICE CREAM!!! 

Yes - CORN ice cream!  I first learned of corn ice cream during my externship at Gramercy Tavern with Pastry Chef Nancy Olson.  One of Nancy's many desserts with a cult-like following is her Blueberry Corn Ice Cream Sundae that comes on the menu each summer and stays there as long as fresh corn is available in NYC.  Her sundae is amazing and unforgettable made of corn ice cream, blueberry corn compote, toffee popcorn, whipped cream and mini corn muffins!  

Nancy made an appearance on Martha Stewart's show and shared the recipe so I decided to make her delicious corn ice cream!  

6 cups fresh or thawed frozen sweet corn kernels (from about 6 ears), cobs reserved if using fresh
4 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
6 Tablespoons light corn syrup
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 1/8 cups sugar
12 large egg yolks
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

Note:  I made a half batch of this recipe and it fit in my 1.5 quart ice cream freezer, but barely. 


  • Set a large bowl in an ice-water bath; set aside.  In a large saucepan, bring corn, corn cobs (if using), 3 1/2 cups milk, heavy cream, corn syrup, vanilla bean seeds and pod and sugar to a boil over medium-high heat.  Cook, stirring, to prevent sugar from sticking to the bottom of the saucepan.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks and remaining 1/2 cup milk until well combined.  Remove corn mixture from heat; slowly add about a third of the hot corn mixture into egg mixture, whisking constantly until combined.  Pour egg mixture back into saucepan with corn cobs, whisking constantly.  Return saucepan to medium-high heat.  Whisking constantly, cook until custard mixture coats back of a wooden spoon, 4 to 5 minutes; stir in vanilla extract and salt. 
  • Pour custard mixture into bowl set in ice-water bath; let cool completely.  Transfer custard mixture to refrigerator and let chill overnight. 
  • Remove corn cobs and vanilla bean pod from custard mixture, squeeze out any excess liquid; discard cobs.  Transfer custard mixture to the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth.  Strain through a fine mesh strainer, discarding solids. 
  • Transfer custard mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's directions.  Put in freezer and freeze solid before serving.  Keep ice cream frozen in an airtight container up to 5 days. 

This ice cream is so unique!  The first few bites your taste buds will be confused... but then they will be very happy!